Paying the price

Published 3:16 am Thursday, January 31, 2008

By Staff
Parents of some of the students given long-term suspensions for participating in a fight at Southside High School on Jan. 18 want their children’s punishments modified so they can continue their education and either be promoted to the next grade level or graduate.
It’s understandable these parents want their children to continue their education. They may consider the punishments too severe. It’s also understandable that other parents may want the students who participated in the big brawl to be removed from the school to protect their children. They may consider the punishments to be too lenient, but 12 students were either arrested or had juvenile petitions filed against them.
Students who participated in the fight must be held accountable for their actions, even if that accountability means they are suspended from school through the remainder of the school year. Students who did not take part in the fight deserve to be educated in an environment that’s as safe as possible. Suspending the students who chose to become involved in the fight, whether the suspensions are long-term or short-term ones, is proper punishment.
The parents seeking lesser punishments for their children have said they don’t condone their children participating, and in some cases initiating, the fight. That’s a good message to send. But is that message being tainted by the parents’ requests for the school system to modify the punishments? Are those requests sending a message to the students who are being punished for fighting that they should suffer nothing more than a slap on their wrists?
At least one parent of a student being punished for fighting suggested the school system allow some of the suspended students to attend classes on Saturday.
Why should Beaufort County taxpayers foot the bill for opening a school on a Saturday so suspended students can continue their education? The taxpayers are not responsible for that fight; the students who chose to fight are responsible for the brawl. The school system should not do anything to accommodate students who are being punished if that accommodation will cost the taxpayers.
Those who chose to fight should pay for their actions, not anyone else.
Simply put, students who fight and violate the rules should be punished. Those students should have thought about what would happen to them by choosing to participate in the fight. It comes down to accountability.
Parents must hold their children accountable for their actions. The school system must hold its students accountable for their actions. The community must hold the students, parents and school system accountable for their actions.
If the school system would provide information about the fight, it may be easier for parents and the community to understand why the fight erupted and identify things to do to prevent similar fights from occurring. Although there are privacy issues when it comes to individual students involved in the fight, there is information the school system can and should release to help the community better understand what happened that day. If there are underlying conflicts that resulted in the fight, the community needs to know them so it can address those conflicts.
Perhaps long-term suspensions that result in students either not being promoted to the next grade level or graduating from high school will serve as lessons these students must learn. If you break the rules, there are consequences to pay. If you break the rules, you are responsible.
The school board should review the punishments handed out to students involved in the fight. If any changes to those punishments deserve to be made, let those changes be made based on the facts of the case, not emotional pleas of parents.
Lessening the punishments of students who deserve to be punished would be an injustice to students who abide by the rules and deserve a safe environment in which to learn.
It’s a good thing no one was killed or seriously injured as a result of the fight. If that were the case, some students may be facing tougher punishments than suspensions.
For those who choose to fight in school, there’s a price to pay. They should pay the full price. If students who fight are not punished, the community ends up paying the price.